Like New Arrivals, Old Encounters (1980), another collection with a preoccupied air; the ten tales here, all with a strong folk-tale flavor and minimal science-fiction content, appear to be small ideas spun off in or by the process of generating the monumental Helliconia trilogy. The tales with Middle European settings offer some muted ironies: two cultures, one poor and traditional, one rich and modern, face one another across a treacherous border lake; hardscrabble mountain dwellers fail to best soft valley townsfolk; a well-meaning prince abolishes slavery, only to destroy the country and himself. Elsewhere, the scene shifts to the islands of Southeast Asia: some islanders, wondering what will happen after a nuclear war in the north, are confronted by a planeload of diseased, armed-to-the-teeth, fleeing American VIPs; a man magically acquires two wives, loving them both at first despite, later because of, their differences. Another tale is set on Helliconia but otherwise has no connection with the trilogy. And the only science fiction piece here is wholly baffling: some peculiar aliens (insects?), pursued by enigmatic enemies (robots?), achieve freedom--only to be suddenly, mysteriously destroyed. Individually slight and anticlimatic though these ruminations on impermanence may be, the whole is quietly impressive: limpid, delicate, understated work, displaying a flawless technique.